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Asthma and allergies are less common among Amish children because of exposure to animal microbes, scientists say


Amish

(NaturalNews) Many have speculated about the causes behind the exceptional health outcomes in the Amish community, where autoimmune disease, allergies, asthma and other chronic health conditions are virtually nonexistent. One formidable explanation is that the Amish don't vaccinate their children, while another recently highlighted in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), suggests that because they're exposed to an array of environmental microbes practically from birth, the Amish possess unique immune superiority not seen in the general population.

Earlier studies like the one conducted on Swiss children back in the 1990s, found that people who grow up on farms teeming with "germs" inherit an added layer of protection against asthma and allergies. Even as far back as the late 19th century, it's noted in the historical record that people who lived on farms fared better in the health department than members of the American and British upper classes, many of whom suffered from hay fever and other population-wide afflictions that were held up as badges of honor, believe it or not, because they indicated that an individual wasn't from the peasant class.

More recent science has uncovered precisely why cowshed environments seem to be far better for human health than urban environments, and it all has to do with microbes, and the animals and soils that harbor them. According to researchers, "sanitary" environments like freshly-vacuumed office buildings are entirely sterile, lacking the diverse microbiome that's present in the natural environment, which along with the floral community that lives inside our guts, helps build the immune systems of those exposed to it.

The new research, which looks at the health outcomes of the Amish compared to the closest known control – Hutterites who live in much the same way as the Amish, except that they're slightly more detached from their animals – is deeply telling. Hutterites, it turns out, live in communal-living environments where livestock are kept further away from people's homes, while the Amish live on smaller farms with cowsheds located directly next to people's homes.

Why is this significant? The microbial load to which the average Amish person is exposed is about 600 percent greater than that of the average Hutterite – likely even higher than that compared to the average American – which means that the Amish are encountering protective bacteria that stimulate their immune systems at a much greater level compared to practically any other population group. Their routine exposure to the microbial effects of raw dairy is likewise beneficial, researchers found, helping to create the so-called "farm effect" which European researchers have previously studied.

If you live in the city, your immune system is likely suffering from a lack of exposure to this "farm effect." That's why many urban-dwellers are starting to get their hands dirty with backyard farming projects like those made possible with the Vertical Garden Tower.

Environmental microbes stimulate the body's innate immune system

The secret appears to lie in the way environmental microbes stimulate the body's innate immune system. The innate immune system is fixed, responding to what New York Times (NYT) guest columnist Moises Velasquez-Manoff terms "ancient patterns in the microbial world." This contrasts with the adaptive immune system which learns through exposure to new germs and substances how to fight them.

Stimulating the innate immune system is critical to preventing asthma and allergies, the new research found, because the innate immune system is ultimately what determines the course of one's genetic expression, and how a person reacts to environmental exposures. If microbes are present from an early age, the exposed person is much more likely to avoid disastrous health outcomes that emerge from being too "clean."

Sources for this article include:

NYTimes.com

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